Physical violence against medical staffers down

Last year saw 3,993 incidents in emergency rooms and health clinics.

The Health Ministry’s report on violence against medical staffers last year showed a clear reduction in the number of such incidents. However, the 3,993 reported cases were not limited mostly to hospital emergency rooms as in previous years, but spread to departments throughout the hospitals and community health clinics.
The report, issued on Thursday, included 670 cases of physical violence and 3,000 of verbal violence, damage to property and threats; 650 resulted in complaints being filed with police. By comparison, in 2008, there were 902 cases of physical violence, 3,091 cases of verbal violence, property damage and threats, and 588 police complaints. Of the total cases, 900 were in community clinics, and the rest were in hospitals.
The report suggested that one of the reasons for fewer reported cases last year was that the number of security personnel in medical institutions had been bolstered, deterring violence. In addition, more money was spent on training and protective technologies in 2009.
Last week, the Knesset passed a law to impose a five-year prison sentence on anyone who physically attacks medical personnel, increasing the punishment from three years in jail. But so far, the courts have not often sent violators to jail. Only 2 percent of arrests and investigations resulted in indictments and 1% in convictions.
Of those who were physically attacked, 55% were security personnel; 21% were nurses, 8% doctors, 2% administrative and maintenance staffers and 4% others. Besides emergency rooms, the most frequent locations of violence were internal medicine, surgery and psychiatry. Half the attackers were relatives or other accompanying persons or visitors of patients, while the rest were inpatients or clinic patients.
In community clinics, administrators were the victims of attacks in 43% of the cases, followed by doctors (33%), nurses (10%), pharmacists (9%) and security guards.
The most common times for violence were between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. andbetween 4 p.m . and midnight (43% each); only 14% were between midnightand the morning shift.
The number of complaints about physical violence filed by HealthMinistry institutions was 210. Clalit Health Services filed 333, and107 complaints came from others.
The most serious case was a urologist stabbed in the chest by a patientarmed with a screwdriver. The doctor was hospitalized for months andgradually returned to work.